What are fossils and how do they form ?
Over the past few years, there's been a renewed interest in fossils. In fact, this interest has convalesced into exciting new trends in fashion and home decor : curating fossils for jewelry and art.
If you've been thinking about having custom jewelry made using amber, ammonites, or fossilized teeth, it helps to know how they were formed.
Here's everything you need to know about fossils.
What are fossils ?
Fossils are the remains of plants, animals, or insects from millions of years ago. In some cases, the fossil contains the plant or animal matter. In others, it's left as an imprint in stone as a ghost of the past.
Fossils have long been studied by scientists who seek insight about the world before humans. Knowledge of how these remnants of the past came to give them a better understanding of our world, and, hopefully, a glimpse of what's to come.
Fossils can be made from bone, amber, wood, stone or anything else that can stand the test of time. Some fossils are even footprints in mud that have managed to stay intact for eons.
How do fossils form ?
There are a few different ways that fossils form; it all depends on the type of fossil. Various factors impact how a fossil is created or if it will be created at all. The environment, the nature of the thing being fossilized, and a little bit of luck all contribute.
I invite you to watch this video on fossil formation :
The ideal environment for creating a fossil is wet and muddy. Fortunately, that described a lot of the earth millions of years ago. Dinosaurs who met their end in ponds and were then covered by layers of mud were more likely to become fossilized than those that died on land. The burial not only created the pressure for fossilization over time but protected them from the elements and scavengers who would pick away at the bones.
The natural minerals in the sediment burying the creature (or plant) would fill the gaps as decomposition took place. Over time, they would harden into rock. As millions of years passed, the world changed, and those remains that were once underwater are now discovered in barren, dry areas.
I invite you to consult the website of the American Geosciences Institute to learn more on the subject.
Creature structure plays a role
While there were a lot of plants that made impressions over the millennia, harder substances were easier to preserve. Bones, teeth, and exoskeletons are far less likely to break down over time, whereas soft tissue rots away.
Whereas plant life might leave impressions, shells and bones would endure a process known as petrification, in which the layers of sediment form a rock around the object, rather than simply making a mold. In that way, the rock becomes a part of the bones to create a fossil.
Not all fossils are petrified and encased in stone. Amber fossils, like the ones you can purchase at FossilEra, are created through a different process.
As plant resin would run down the trees in ancient forests, small bugs and seeds would get stuck in the viscous substance. Over time, key components of the resin dissipate and oxidizes, hardening the remaining resin into amber. Not only does amber look great in jewelry, but it contains small pieces of history. And yes, as in Jurassic Park, it might even contain some dinosaur DNA.
Amber fossil of a scorpion
Coral and shellfish
Due to the environmental requirements for fossilization, it should come as no surprise that shellfish and coral are the most common fossils. Ammonites are a fan-favorite among collectors and make for an incredible display in jewelry or at home.
In addition to coral and shellfish, it's possible to find starfish fossils and imprints left behind by fish who would swim along the bottom of a waterway. You can even find Megoladon teeth, measuring as much as six inches long.
Petrified wood is a particularly special fossil that also makes a statement as a collector's item or accessory. Being a porous, once living substance, wood isn't the prime candidate for fossilization. Still, stranger things have happened, and petrified wood somehow exists.
The theory is that when the plant material would fall into the ideal ecosystem, the sediment would protect the wood from oxidation. As a result, no decomposition would occur. Over time, the sediment would seep into the porous wood and replace the plant material with minerals. Sometimes opal would seep in and create something unique and beautiful.
The wood would no longer be plant material but would retain its resemblance to its previous form. In some cases, petrified wood looks so similar to living wood, that passersby don't notice a difference unless they pick it up.
Last but not least is volcanic preservation. These fossils were formed when a volcano would erupt, spewing ash and magma. As the lava flowed around small creatures and hardened, it would create a hollow imprint of what used to be there.
In Northern China, there are volcanic fossils of entire dinosaurs that were caught in the onslaught of an eruption. These are comparable to those of the famous Pompeii eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
Mount Vesuvius in eruption
Knowing the basics about how fossils are formed will give your accessories character. Start a conversation and wow people with your knowledge, and your great taste.
For further :
- This board on Pinterest might interest you
- Watch this Youtube video to learn more about fossils
- Fossilera proposes jewelry with fossils